Many harpists dream of having a big gold harp, but few ever see that dream come to reality. Well, that dream came true for me on December 26, 2011.
The vintage gold style 22 Lyon and Healy harp belonged to Dr. Charlotte Marrow, the harp instructor at Schreiner University in Kerrville Texas. Besides being magnificent, the harp held a fascinating history. It was built in the 1920's, and once resounded in the halls of Juilliard, where Dr. Marrow studied under Marcel Grandjany, one of two legendary patriarchs in harp history. It had been played in orchestras across the country, and had become a well-known icon in the Texas Hill Country music scene.
I had been taking lessons from Dr. Marrow for only six weeks, when she announced that she needed to retire from her Harp career, and would soon move out of State. On a whim, my Mom asked what she planned to do with her harp. Dr. Marrow said that she had thought about donating it to a local symphony or school, but knew of none with a resident harpist. With this answer, Mom suggested that I might use the harp, so that it could continue to be played in the Hill Country. Dr. Marrow was delighted with this idea, and the harp became mine.
Now the harp is played just as regularly as it was in its "Golden days." People occasionally recognize it as "Charlotte's harp" And I am honored to preserve and add to the legacy of such a lovely instrument. It's sound is frequently heard in local "Dialogues and Dances" Concerts, Art Galleries, Churches, and Nursing homes. In greater scope, I have had the pleasure of playing it for both State and National level political functions; most recently, an event for Texas Governor Abbott's 2015 Inauguration.
I especially enjoy using the harp to minister to the elderly in Fredericksburg with in-home "David visits" or private harp lessons. I also have a passion for sharing the instrument with young people through school or class exhibitions. I have chosen to pursue my college and music studies online, in part to continue using my harp to minister to the people here in the Hill Country. I love to teach, and I endeavor to inspire many future harpists (of any age) in the Fredericksburg community.
When I first received the Lyon and Healy harp, it had a visible crack and several scuffs from age and use, but nothing to significantly impact the sound. A common problem in old harps is gradual warping of the soundboard or neck. The harp evidenced these slightly, but not yet enough to cause any damage.
Over the last three years, I have noticed a gradual change in the sound and responsiveness of the harp. These quirks have prevented me from recording an album, or depending on the harp for a full-scale performance. About a year ago, I took it to the nearest harp technician for a routine regulation; the first it had seen in years. He returned it to me with unfortunate news: the harp needed a major restoration, with an estimated cost of $10,000.
In hopes that such a restoration could be put off until I finish school and save enough, I determined to get a second opinion. I recently submitted an inquiry to the Official Lyon and Healy company in Chicago. Based on a description of the harp's defects, and some detailed pictures, they suggest that the harp probably does not need such significant work, but they cannot give a firm estimate until actually seeing the harp. Aside from that, they express an urgency for the crack in the soundboard to be repaired soon, before it tears any further and devastates the body of the harp.
- If Lyon and Healy is able to solve the problem with minor tweaks, the repair expenses should be between $5,000-$7,000. An additional $1,000 will be used to cover shipping and insurance costs, and the remaining $7,000 will be allocated towards my debut album.
- Should extensive restoration be required, the entire $15,000 will be needed for repair, shipping, and insurance expenses. However, I am assured by Lyon and Healy, that this will greatly add to the life and value of the harp. When it is returned to me, it will be in mint condition, and have a flawless sound.
It is my hope to raise these funds within thirty days, and to ship the harp by mid April. I anticipate all (even major) repairs to be completed within six months, and the harp to be returned on or before October 15, 2015. I plan to share the "new harp" with a solo concert during the Christmas season in December. I also hope to release my debut album in early 2016.
After this milestone, I look forward to taking on even more students and performance opportunities. I aspire to start a Fredericksburg Harp ensemble that will give performances for nursing homes, churches, and the hospital. I hope to continue: ministering to the elderly, playing in my church orchestra, composing for harp, performing with the Fredericksburg Chorale, and embellishing the Hill Country community with a joyful noise on the harp!
Risks and challenges
An obvious challenge with this project is the uncertain cost and extent of essential repairs. Does the harp need to be completely restored? Or does it merely need a tune-up? This cannot be finally determined until it is examined in Chicago. However, I have talked over these considerations with the 30-year Master Builder at Lyon and Healy, and he guarantees that the job will be done excellently for no more than this project's target amount.
Another variable is the amount of time that the makeover will take. Six months is the calculated maximum, but it is possible that the work could take longer. This will only delay my concert if I do not have the harp by mid November. Should this be the case, I will reschedule the performance for early 2016, and select a more season-generic program. While the harp is in Chicago I will be able to continue playing events with my smaller pedal harp, but will not be able to give large performances or start any recording.
I am confident that, with your help, I can see this project through to completion. And I am optimistic that the repairs will be minimal, and the end result will include an enjoyable album as well!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)